For me, The Adventure weekend (NWTA) was the start of my journey towards becoming a man, and becoming conscious of my behaviour and my impact on others.
I was born into a family where sarcasm, rudeness, criticism, shame and blame were commonplace. Vulnerability, sadness and fear were not. Yet these feelings were normal for me.
Because of this, I learned from a young age that crying was not acceptable. As a man, any show of sadness (unless attending a funeral) was squashed. And showing fear or vulnerability was mocked.
If someone gave me a compliment, then they wanted something from me. Nothing was freely given in my house; there was always an unspoken price tag.
I learned to shut off my feelings. If I started to feel sadness or fear or the need to be vulnerable, I would shut off that feeling and become distant, disassociated.
When I was growing up I thought that my father was perfect. He was my god – I strove to be like him. He had the belief that his behaviour was right and everyone else’s was wrong, if it were different from his own.
This was so powerful and undeniable to me. I had no one in my life to make me think that maybe there was another way.
In our eyes, our family were the normal ones. Everyone who didn’t behave like us were the odd ones!
But my father didn’t know the truth. His father didn’t and his father before him didn’t.
They were simply passing on what they had learned in the best way they knew how.
They were doing their best as parents, yet unaware they were passing on the same beliefs and behaviours that had led them to feelings of anger, resentment, inadequacy and insecurity in their lives.
When I met my wife, she helped me to see, that “I” was not my behaviour!
I could choose how to behave. I could alter my behaviour to be different man and that maybe I would enjoy life more, if I changed.
This was a foreign concept to me and at first I was resistant to the idea.
My father had instilled in me that my behaviour and I were the same entwined, unchangeable thing.
Five years ago, I watched some videos on the internet from men who had completed the Adventure. I knew that I wanted some of what they’d gained from their weekend.
I knew I wanted to change – and even though I had no idea how to do so, The Adventure seemed like a great place to start.
On my weekend, I found the strong man within me, which I hadn’t really appreciated before.
I had my first insight into how I could feel safe to express my emotions again.
The weekend started a journey of self-discovery. Learning to trust people again. To trust men. To feel emotionally safe enough to be able to express my sadness.
Learning how my behaviour was impacting others around me.
The more I became conscious of my emotions and my impact on others, the more I realised how much there was to learn.
I also made some great friends within MKP. I met, for the first time, men who could express their emotions in a healthy way.
Five years on, a few more MKP trainings and much more personal development work, and I’m still learning about myself. I have had a major insight recently into how my passivity and shame have been shaping my life.
Shame has been a standard method of parenting for many decades and I certainly had my fair share of it. I learned how to use it from my parents, my teachers and I was now using it to parent my own children.
I listened to an audio by Brene Brown, who is a shame researcher. It gave me the understanding of when I was going into shame, when I was trying to shame others and when people I was communicating with were experiencing shame.
By becoming conscious of shame, I was able to do things differently. I was suddenly in control of conversations that previously would lead to an argument.
I also listened to a talk by John Lee on passivity. I realised that I was very passive man. Quote: “Passivity is the psychological, spiritual and emotional condition which compels us to pursue that which we say we do not want.”
At first I didn’t see how that fitted into my life, but then I realised that it was sabotaging my choices to do things I really love.
Being fit and healthy, seeking amazing experiences and being open and daring, living life to the fullest, feeling energetic and full of life; things that I was once passionate about as a boy, but which had ebbed away due to being so passive.
As in, “Oh, yes, I would love to exercise regularly, but I just don’t have the time to do it.” And, “I would love to go canoeing down the Thames, but I am always busy on the weekends.” And also, “I would love to play the guitar – I bought one 10 years ago and I’ve barely picked it up.”
My passivity was leading me to feeling resentful and sad. I was not doing the things in my life that would make me really feel happy and free. I began to get an awareness of when passivity was showing up in my life and started to change it.
And my life has transformed once more!
This journey has been so rewarding for me. I can now feel my feelings. I don’t block them when they come up. Sarcasm, criticising, blaming and shaming are no longer there. I am no longer resentful. This has given way to finding my gentle, caring and loving side. I am now able to show my vulnerabilities.
My wife and children love the changes that they have seen in me - I am closer to all of them as a result.
It’s up to me to take responsibility for providing the best quality parenting, being the best husband that I can be, and most importantly doing things to nurture myself.
I feel happier, more relaxed and freer than I have ever done. And it all started with that first MKP weekend.
Photos courtesy www.dreamstime.com